Holy Masses, festive meetings, spiritual help, and, first of all, memory and prayer for the deceased – these are only a few initiatives of the pastoral care which the Redemptorist Fathers from Warsaw give to the families of casualties of the Smoleńsk air crash

It is Saturday afternoon. In front of the church of St. Klemens Hofbauer in Warsaw people are greeting each other cordially who are famous for the first pages of newspapers. However, they are not celebrities but people who were united with the great national tragedy. Families of the casualties of Smoleńsk air crash, for whom it is important to remember with dignity about their relatives and pray for their intention.

- From the beginning we could rely on spiritual support of the Redemptorist Fathers, and particularly, Fr. Waldemar Gonczaruk – says Magdalena Pietrzak-Merta, a widower of the culture minister Tomasz Merta. – Here we can rely on support, warm-heartedness, a friendly word and understanding.

An impulse heart

The last meeting of Smoleńsk families was particularly important. For, as in every November the liturgy of the Church prompts us to reflection and reminiscences about those who passed away to eternity. – So, All Souls’ Day of Smoleńsk was a prayer in the intention of the casualties of the air crash, their families, and also those deceased who had been related with explanation of the air crash causes – says Fr. Waldemar Gonczaruk, a priest of families from the Association of Katyń Families 2010.

The prayer was also joined by artists of Warsaw theatrical stages. The scenario of the prayer meeting was prepared by Joanna Grzybowska, the author of the scenario of unveiling the Smoleńsk epitaph at Jasna Góra – explains Halina Łabonarska, who with Piotr Bajor and Jerzy Zieliński took part in the ‘Smoleńsk All Souls’ Day’. The prayer for the deceased was based on the prayer to the Divine Mercifulness during which in five parts of the Chaplet to Divine Mercy all surnames of those who had been killed in the air crash were mentioned.

Reflections were interspersed with a prayer and music performed by the orchestra ‘Camerata Vistula’. So, the All Saints’ Day had musical setting of the highest quality. Why did artists undertake this task completely for free? – We always try to engage ourselves in a good matter. And memory and a prayer in the intentions of the air crash casualties are something obvious for us – says prof. Andrzej Wróbel, a director of the ‘Camerata Vistula’ orchestra. – Artists do not do it for their popularity , but from the pure impulse from their hearts – adds Fr. Gonczaruk.

Unfashionable artists

The Smoleńsk air crash became a forbidden topic. The tragedy was eliminated from public debates, and everybody who remembers it – is ridiculed. This unjust line of the division runs through all spheres of life – media, politics, academic groups and even artists. The official public space – theatres, galleries, concert halls – is closed for the Smoleńsk topic. Are we having a replay of history, when, for example, in the state of war, people of culture were hiding under an ecclesiastical umbrella? – It is impossible to compare it directly, because preaching from a pulpit was in a good taste. Nearly everybody used to go to church. Whereas today, neither the air crash not the Church are fashionable – says Andrzej Wróbel.

Magdalena Merta notices an analogy to the issue of Katyń in it. – Although at present artists are not imprisoned, they must prove their civilian courage. They know they may face an acute ostracism of their community.

They are comforting

Meetings of religious-artistic character, both for families of casualties and communities which were engaged in a fight for the truth. Thanks to these meetings we feel that not everybody turned away from us, and the air crash is not only our private matter – emphasizes Magdalena Merta.

Although in the main trend of the culture circulation Smoleńsk is forbidden and omitted, the topics of the air crash finds a widely artistic vent in another circulation.

History likes being repeated. The Church becomes a custodian of memory again, especially a spiritual hospital for hurt families. – Many people have doubled pain, because earlier they had to fight with the lie of Katyń, and now they demand the truth about Smoleńsk. So, this ‘stigma’ passes from generation to generation - emphasizes Fr. Gonczaruk.

So, it is natural that Smoleńsk families are looking for support in the Church. – Many events after 10 April 2010 were profanation of the dignity and honour of the deceased, and also our national pride – says Fr. Gonczaruk. – So, the task for priests is opening the door of the Church, listening to them and accompany them in prayer. Our meetings have a beautiful artistic setting because good art always helps in a prayer and brings the man closer to God.


"Niedziela" 47/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: